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201  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISIL captures Iraqi base, kills 300 on: September 28, 2014, 07:51:53 PM
Source unknown to me but sounds plausible
202  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of the Republicans on: September 28, 2014, 07:46:25 PM
203  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Dougherty: Fair Use Doctrine on: September 28, 2014, 05:31:58 PM
Jay Dougherty was my best friend in law school.
204  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A convenient list from VDH of Hillary's failures as Sec State. on: September 28, 2014, 11:35:49 AM

Hillary Clinton is all but running for president, boasting about her reset diplomacy while secretary of state during Obama’s first term. But it is hard to find a single example of inspired diplomacy during her tenure. Canceling missile-defense cooperation with the Czechs and Poles while resetting relations with Vladimir Putin was not wise. Nor was leading from behind in Libya (“We came, we saw, and he died”). Nor was her emphasis on climate change as a global threat or her pressure on Israel to grant concessions supposedly to ensure Middle East peace. Nor was welcoming the election of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Nor was ignoring requests for beefed-up security at the consulate in Benghazi. Nor was claiming that the deaths of the four Americans in Benghazi were due to a spontaneous riot over a video (“What difference at this point does it make?”). Nor was pulling all troops out of Iraq. Nor was lifting the embargos and trade sanctions against Iran. Nor was much of anything except an impressive near million miles of traveling while secretary, an astonishing feat for someone in her sixties and often in poor health.
205  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / New IPhone locks out NSA on: September 27, 2014, 08:39:42 PM
206  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US sending arms to Lebanese army (including Hezbollah?) on: September 27, 2014, 08:35:55 PM
While the United States considers Hezbollah a terrorist group, the two may be indirectly working together to keep ISIS fighters in Syria out of Lebanon, Israel’s NRG News reported Monday. A week after Hezbollah fighters repulsed ISIS forces in Arsal, in northern Lebanon, near the Syrian border, the US is reportedly sending weapons to the Lebanese army, in order to strengthen its abilities against ISIS. The American aid intended for Syria’s western neighbor, is based on the assumption that Hezbollah and the Lebanese army are collaborating, so it’s not unlikely that the US weapons are reaching the Shiite group, according to the report. Additionally, CIA intelligence reportedly recently helped Hezbollah stop an ISIS-backed car-bombing plot in the southern part of the capital, Beirut, which is largely under Hezbollah control. “The international community has an interest in isolating the Syrian crisis,” according to Mohammed Afif, a recently-appointed spokesman for Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. Afif’s remarks illustrate the Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization’s role in the new balance of power in the region: “Everyone has an interest in keeping the peace in Lebanon,” according to Afif. “Everyone has his own way.”

Hezbollah officials are closely watching the latest regional moves by the United States in the struggle against ISIS, to see how and where they can make profit politically or militarily by the developing US presence. In a video clip released Sunday night, Hezbollah said it had fired a rocket from a drone, hitting an ISIS target in Syria. On the same day, Lebanese state media said three people were killed in a suicide car bombing at a checkpoint manned by Hezbollah militiamen, about 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) from the Syria border. Last Monday, Hezbollah officials said that the growing takeover by ISIS-affiliated fighters of areas in nearby Syria justified the necessity of their continued deployment to fight them, according the Daily Star. “There could never be a war of words between ISIS and us, but there is the field where we will defeat them. We will not engage in a war of statements or political disputes,” declared Nabil Qaouk, deputy head of the party’s executive council, at a ceremony in the southern Lebanese village of Aita Shaab, near Israel.
207  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bill Maher surprises-2 on: September 27, 2014, 08:17:47 PM
208  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Contract with America on: September 26, 2014, 09:50:01 PM
Reflections on the Contract with America – 20 Years Later
Originally published at

On Wednesday I had the privilege of meeting with S. Ganbaatar, a member of the Mongolian Parliament.

When he entered the room, Ganbaatar walked up excitedly to examine a framed document that has hung for years in my offices. The document is a list of commitments to the people, signed by dozens of candidates for public office who promised to vote on a specific policy agenda if they were elected to office. It's framed alongside a picture of the candidates who signed and campaigned on it. Many of them went on to be elected in a historic vote that tossed out a party that had held power since the 1920s.
Ganbaatar was looking at a framed copy of the 1996 "Contract with the Mongolian Voter." That contract was, as the Washington Post reported the next year, "the most widely distributed document in Mongolian history." The Mongolian voters -- with a 91% turnout -- elected the democratic opposition, which four years earlier had held just six seats. With a program of "private property rights, a free press and the encouragement of foreign investment," they defeated the Communist Party that had ruled since 1921.

Ganbaatar, who was elected to Parliament as an Independent in 2012 and is already one of his country's most popular politicians, recounted emotionally how the Contract with the Voter was a watershed event in modern Mongolian history. The ideas in that document, he told me, "gave us our freedom."

Mongolia's peaceful, democratic transition of power from the communists to a republican government was one of the few hopeful stories to come out of the former Soviet states in the early years after the Cold War.
It was fitting, but only a coincidence, that Ganbaatar visited just a few days before the 20th anniversary of the Contract with America, the inspiration for Mongolia's Contract with the Voters.

On September 27, 1994, more than 350 candidates for Congress gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to sign a pledge to the American people, a promise to vote on 10 key reforms if we won a majority in the House of Representatives. That campaign, which I helped organize, earned Republicans control of the House for the first time in 40 years.

The Contract was a campaign document. It laid out a common-sense program that was designed to earn the support of the broadest possible range of Americans. Its assortment of policies included everything from changes to how the House did business to items on the budget, welfare and tax policy.

But more than any particular proposal, the important thing about the document was its form: It was a contract, a real commitment to reform and accountability and renewal. It sought above all to "restore the bonds of trust between the people and their elected representatives."

We knew Americans deserved a clear and unambiguous account of what we planned to do, and believed reform required their explicit support -- and that if we broke faith with them, we wouldn't deserve to hold power. So we invited people to vote us out again if we didn't follow through.

But we did follow through -- in an extraordinary first hundred days that kicked off one of the most productive Congresses in American history. In addition to being a campaign document, the Contract was a management document that told us how we would govern. It led directly or indirectly to all of the achievements that would soon follow, including four straight balanced budgets, welfare reform, and the largest capital gains tax cut in American history.

In retrospect, it's clear that the Contract also marked an enduring political realignment. When the Republican House majority was sworn in in 1995, there was only one Republican in the House (Bill Emerson from Missouri) who had ever served under a majority -- and he had done so as a page. Two years later, we became the first Republican majority that had been reelected since 1928. And since the Contract, Republicans have held the House for 16 of the past 20 years, and should continue to hold it for the foreseeable future.

As a detailed commitment to passing specific bills, the Contract was the first document of its kind in American history. It has now been replicated in other countries, like Italy and Mongolia, not because of its policy content, but because it expressed a hope in the heart of every voter -- an aspiration that, in the case of the U.S. -- didn't end with the election of 1994 and certainly did not begin there.

The Contract was, quite literally, a renewal of a pre-existing commitment, one that had not been honored. It was the commitment that elected representatives of the people remain accountable to the people.

This social contract is essential to self-government, but too often, our leaders abandon it once they join the political class. They forget about who put them there, they contrive to shield themselves from "tough votes," and they stretch further the restraints on their powers under the law.

There's nothing like a visit by a legislator from a place where, for the better part of the last century, lawlessness reigned, to remind you that the contract between the people and their representatives must be constantly renewed and ardently defended.

Your Friend,
209  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces on: September 26, 2014, 04:41:38 PM
 Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces at Work in the Nation-State
Geopolitical Weekly
Tuesday, September 23, 2014 - 03:00 Print Text Size

By Zhixing Zhang

"Here begins our tale: The empire, long divided, must unite; long united, must divide. Thus it has ever been." This opening adage of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, China's classic novel of war and strategy, best captures the essential dynamism of Chinese geopolitics. At its heart is the millennia-long struggle by China's would-be rulers to unite and govern the all-but-ungovernable geographic mass of China. It is a story of centrifugal forces and of insurmountable divisions rooted in geography and history — but also, and perhaps more fundamentally, of centripetal forces toward eventual unity.

This dynamism is not limited to China. The Scottish referendum and waves of secession movements — from Spain's Catalonia to Turkey and Iraq's ethnic Kurds — are working in different directions. More than half a century after World War II triggered a wave of post-colonial nationalism that changed the map of the world, buried nationalism and ethnic identity movements of various forms are challenging the modern idea of the inviolable unity of the nation-state.

Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces at Work in the Nation-State

Yet even as these sentiments pull on the loose threads of nations, in China, one of the most intractable issues in the struggle for unity — the status of Tibet — is poised for a possible reversal, or at least a major adjustment. The long-running but frequently unnoticed negotiations have raised the possibility that the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, may be nearing a deal that would enable him to return to his Tibetan homeland. If it happens, it would end the Dalai Lama's exile in Dharamsala, India — an exile that began after the Tibetan uprising in 1959, nine years after the People's Republic of China annexed Tibet. More important, a settlement between Beijing and the Dalai Lama could be a major step in lessening the physical and psychological estrangement between the Chinese heartland and the Tibetan Plateau.
Tibet, the Dalai Lama and Self-Determination

The very existence of the Tibetan issue bespeaks several overlapping themes of Chinese geopolitics. Most fundamentally, it must be understood in the context of China's struggle to integrate and extend control over the often impassable but strategically significant borderlands militarily and demographically. These borderlands, stretching from northeast to the southwest — Manchuria, Mongolian Plateau, Xinjiang, Tibet and the Yunnan Plateau — form a shield, both containing and protecting a unified Han core from overland invasion. In attempting to integrate these regions, however, China confronts the very nature of geographic disintegration and the ethnic identities in these restive borderlands, which have sought to resist, separate or drift away from China at times when weak central power has diminished the coherence of China's interior.

Tibet in many ways represents the extreme edge of this pattern. Indeed, while the formidable geography of the Tibetan Plateau (its altitude averages 4.5 kilometers, or almost 2.8 miles, above sea level) largely inured it from most frontier threats to the Han core compared with the more accessible Manchuria, Mongolian Plateau or Xinjiang. Perhaps no borderland is as fraught with as much consequence as Tibet under China's contemporary geopolitical circumstances. The Tibetan Plateau and its environs constitute roughly one-quarter of the Chinese landmass and are a major source of freshwater for China, the Indian subcontinent and mainland Southeast Asia. The high mountains of the Himalayas make a natural buffer for the Chinese heartland and shape the complex geopolitical relationship between China and India.

Historically, China's engagement with the Tibetan Plateau has been lacking and not characterized by national unity. Starting in the 7th century, China made sporadic attempts to extend its reach into the Tibetan Plateau, but it wasn't until the Qing dynasty that the empire made a substantial effort to gain authority over Tibetan cultural and social structures through control of Tibetan Buddhist institutions. The weakening of China after the Qing dynasty led peripheral states, including Tibet, to slip from Chinese central rule.

Since the People's Republic of China began ruling over Tibet in 1950, the perennial struggle manifested as political, religious and psychological estrangement between political power in Beijing and the Dalai Lama, the charismatic political and spiritual symbol of the Tibetan self-determination movement, who consistently has resisted China's full domination over Tibet. Here, the nominally impersonal process of geopolitics confronts the rare individual who has a lasting impact. The Dalai Lama has concentrated the Tibetan cause into himself and his image. It is the Dalai Lama who represents the Tibetan identity in foreign capitals and holds a fractious Tibetan movement together, holding sway over both indigenous Tibetans in the homeland and the old and new generations of Tibetan exiles.
Perennial Struggle and Contemporary Moves

Under the People's Republic, China has some of the clearest physical control and central authority over one of the largest and most secure states in China's dynastic history. However, the ancient compulsion to secure the Chinese periphery did not go unaddressed by China's Communist leadership.

Over the years, the central government has pushed aggressively to bolster Han Chinese economic and demographic dominance over the borderland while attempting to overcome the physical barriers of distance through grandiose infrastructure projects, including road and rail links. And yet, the estrangement with the Dalai Lama has left Beijing dealing with the perception that its control over the Tibetan Plateau is partial and of questionable legitimacy. Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama's international prestige exposed the central power in Beijing to numerous international critics. Moreover, it offered New Delhi an opportunity to exploit Beijing's concerns by hosting the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Beijing sees no space to allow the autonomy demanded by the Tibetan exile movement; it is a short path from robust autonomy to direct challenge. Beijing's strategy has been to try to undermine the Dalai Lama's international prestige, constrain interaction between the exile community and Tibetans at home and hope that when the spiritual leader dies, the absence of his strong personality will leave the Tibetan movement without a center and without someone who can draw the international attention the Dalai Lama does. Central to Beijing's calculation is interference in the succession process whereby Beijing claims the right to designate the Dalai Lama's religious successor and, in doing so, exploit sectarian and factional divisions within Tibetan Buddhism. Beijing insists the reincarnation process must follow the Tibetan religious tradition since the Qing dynasty, meaning that it must occur within Tibetan territory and with the central government's endorsement, a process that highlights Tibet's position as a part of China, not an independent entity.

Beijing's plan could work, but the cost would be high. Without recognition from the Dalai Lama, Beijing's appointed successor — and by extension, Beijing's authority in Tibet — can hardly be accepted by the wider Tibetan community. To resist Beijing's attempt at interference, the Dalai Lama has in recent years made various statements signaling that the ancient traditions of the succession process could break. In particular, the Dalai Lama has discussed the potential for succession through emanation rather than reincarnation. This would place his knowledge and authority in several individuals, each with a part of his spiritual legacy, but none as the single heir. Emanation can occur while the Dalai Lama is alive, thus giving him the ability to manage a transition. He has also mentioned the possibility that no successor will be named — that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama will end, leaving his legacy as the lasting focus for Tibetans.

More concretely, the Dalai Lama has split the role of spiritual and political leadership of the Tibetan movement, nominally giving up the latter while retaining the former. In doing so, he is attempting to create a sense of continuity to the Tibetan movement even though his spiritual successor has not been identified. However, it also separates the Dalai Lama from any Tibetan political movement, theoretically making it easier for the spiritual leader and Beijing to come to an accord about his possible return as a spiritual — but not political — leader. But the maneuvering by the Dalai Lama reflects a deeper reality. The Tibetan movement is not homogenous. Tibetan Buddhism has several schools that remain in fragile coordination out of respect for the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan political movement is also fragmented, with the younger foreign-born Tibetans often more strongly pressing for independence for Tibet, while the older exiles take a more moderate tone and call for more autonomy. The peaceful path promoted by the Dalai Lama is respected, but not guaranteed forever, by the younger and more radical elements of the Tibetan movement, which have only temporarily renounced the use of violence to achieve their political goals.

The future of the Tibetan movement after the Dalai Lama's death is uncertain. At a minimum, the spiritual leader's fame means no successor will be able to exercise the same degree of influence or maintain internal coherence as he has done. Just as the Dalai Lama was concerned that an extremist wing of the new Tibetan generation would undermine his moderate ideology and dilute the movement's legitimacy, Beijing fears that the post-Dalai Lama era would enable multiple radical, separatist or even militant movements to proliferate, leaving Beijing in a much more difficult position and potentially facing a greater security threat.

Beijing and the Dalai Lama have shown a willingness to reach a political settlement in the past, but their attempts failed. As uncertainties loom for both sides amid concerns about the spiritual leader's age and the changing domestic dynamics facing China's new president, Xi Jinping, both sides could see a departure from previous hostilities as a reasonable step toward a low-cost settlement. In other words, both Beijing and the Dalai Lama — and by extension his mainstream followers — understand how little time they have and how, without a resolution, the uncertainties surrounding the Tibet issue could become permanent after the spiritual leader's death.
Optimism Now, but Caution Ahead

The report of the Dalai Lama's possible return to Tibet comes as Beijing has resumed talks with representatives of the spiritual leader. This round of negotiations comes after nine rounds of failed talks over the past decade and four years after the last attempt. Nonetheless, the mood appears at least somewhat optimistic on both sides. In recent weeks, the Dalai Lama has offered conciliatory comments about Xi and intimated that he could be open to returning to Tibet, a longstanding desire of the 79-year-old spiritual leader. For its part, Beijing has released some Tibetan political prisoners and reportedly allowed the Dalai Lama's image and words to be used in certain Tibetan regions after years of prohibition.

Of course, many uncertainties surround the return of the Dalai Lama; it is even uncertain whether it could happen at all. Indeed, overcoming 55 years of hostile relations takes enormous effort, and even if the Dalai Lama is allowed to return to Tibet, it is only one of several steps in much broader negotiations between Beijing and the Tibetan exile community over how to reach a resolution, including the possible resettlement of 200,000 Tibetans in exile, the status of the government-in-exile, the authority of the Dalai Lama and, ultimately, the succession process for the spiritual leader.

Over the years, the Dalai Lama repeatedly has expressed a strong desire to return to the Tibetan homeland, seeing it as an end goal in his longstanding efforts to gain Tibetan autonomy. Although Beijing had always left the option open, it repeatedly emphasized that any dialogue with the Dalai Lama would be confined to the scope of an arrangement for the spiritual leader and would carry no political implications. In other words, any agreement will be based on the premise that expanded Tibetan autonomy is not an option and that Beijing's authority over Tibetan regions — and by extension, the borderland in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia — will remain intact. Similarly, the Dalai Lama will not accept a weakening of his spiritual authority among the Tibetan community or of his role in choosing successors. Nonetheless, with Beijing's concern over the proliferation of radical wings of the Tibetan movement abroad, allowing the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet could mitigate some of the tension and give Beijing a way to divide and weaken the Tibetan movement.

In moving toward an agreement, both sides would have to prepare for some political risk. For Beijing, the foremost concern would be managing the enormous religious influence of the Dalai Lama at home, where he is seen as a challenger to the Communist Party's political leadership. For the Dalai Lama, the main concerns would be managing the role of the Tibetan political leadership overseas and the potential repercussions within the exile movement from the developing settlement's contrast with their goal for Tibetan autonomy.

Perhaps more important, even if there were signs of a resolution developing, the succession issue is likely to be a roadblock. Beijing is unlikely to give any concession in its authority to appoint a reincarnated spiritual leader, and the Dalai Lama shows little intention of allowing Beijing's unilateral move.

Confronting a Geopolitical Curse

Despite various uncertainties, questions and risks, the potential ramifications of even the slim possibility of rapprochement illustrate China's ancient geopolitical dynamism at work.

Again illustrating how an individual can play a role in geopolitics, the potential for reconciliation between Beijing and the Dalai Lama could affect the balance between China and India. China has long viewed India's decision to host the Tibetan government-in-exile as a hostile gesture. However, India's ability to exploit China's concerns about Tibet has diminished along with the government-in-exile's influence and claim to represent Tibet as a legitimate entity. Already, New Delhi has shown waning enthusiasm for accepting Tibetan refugees and greater concern that the internal fragmentation of the Tibetan community will make hosting the exile community more of a liability than a benefit. However, a settlement would not eliminate the underlying geopolitical rivalry between India and China on other fronts — from their 4,000-kilometer land border to the maritime competitions in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea and their competition for energy and other resources.

Even if a settlement on the Tibet issue emerges in the distant future, it does not mean the end of the China-Tibet struggle. Indeed, since 2009 there have been many Tibetan self-immolations, and Beijing's economic developments in many parts of the ethnic borderlands widely are perceived as flawed or incomplete. Quite likely, a detente with the Dalai Lama will result in radicalized and more extremist elements emerging overseas, seeking self-determination and, like many of their counterparts around the world — from Scotland to the Kurds in the Middle East — challenging the centripetal forces of nation-states.

Historically, when Han China is strong, so is its control over these buffer regions. Control of the buffer regions, in turn, is a key precondition for a strong and secure Han China. This arrangement will become crucial as Beijing grapples with the potential challenges in the social, economic and political transformation in the Han core in the coming years. Therefore, despite the flux mentioned in the aphorism from Romance of the Three Kingdoms, for Beijing the ultimate goal is to confront an ancient geopolitical curse by cementing its control over its borderlands and uniting China permanently and irreversibly, however unrealistic this goal might be.

Editor's Note: Writing in George Friedman's stead this week is Stratfor Asia-Pacific Analyst Zhixing Zhang.

Read more: Centripetal and Centrifugal Forces at Work in the Nation-State | Stratfor
Follow us: @stratfor on Twitter | Stratfor on Facebook
210  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: September 26, 2014, 04:33:39 PM
 Obama's Islamic State Strategy: Intel, Advisers and No Boots on the Ground
Geopolitical Diary
Wednesday, September 10, 2014 - 20:56 Text Size Print

U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed a week's worth of speculation Wednesday night on his administration's strategy to combat the Islamic State. As expected, the basic idea is for the United States to lead an expansion of the air campaign in Iraq and extend it to Syria, treating the militant-trodden river valleys as a single battle space. Without nuancing the necessary role of intelligence assets and special operations forces, Obama tried to reassure the American public that he would not commit boots on the ground to another Middle Eastern maelstrom but that he had a plan nonetheless to contain an army of particularly brutal jihadists.

The United States has sought the support and assistance of its international partners in an attempt to lessen the military and political burden of the operation. During the Sept. 4-5 NATO summit, Washington failed to organize an official NATO intervention against the Islamic State, but it did shore up the support of a core coalition of nine countries (the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Italy, Poland and Denmark). On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also mentioned that there was a broader coalition of more than 40 countries that would be supporting the operations. It is not clear yet how substantial the commitment of any of these countries will be, but additional air assets, logistical support and basing will be some of the main elements in expanding operations in volume and in geographic reach.

Obama's speech was essentially a political public relations effort, timed only after Iraqi leaders managed to pull together a government and ahead of November U.S. midterm elections. With most U.S. congressmen reluctant to vote on anything with a hint of controversy this close to the election, yet many all too prone to condemn the U.S. president for not consulting them enough, Obama was obviously trying to kill several birds with one stone in this speech. Domestic politics aside, this is a strategy that faces unavoidable imperfections as the United States tries to meld contradictory political and military objectives for the region.

The first and most glaring contradiction lies in the combination of attacking Islamic State targets by air while selectively arming and training Syrian rebels on the ground, not to mention that the United States will be working with Iranian proxies in Iraq and pro-Saudi actors in Syria. On the surface, and as Obama laid out, this makes perfect sense: The United States is not about to commit its own combat troops to engage with the Islamic State, so it must partner with local Sunni forces to degrade Islamic State fighters on the ground while it strikes from the air. Just as the United States is making gradual progress in standing up a coherent fighting force in Iraq through the Kurdish peshmerga, Sunni tribal forces and Iraqi army soldiers, it will be looking to do the same in Syria.

But if only Syria offered such a neat solution. On the contrary, no matter how carefully the United States tries to pick and choose whom it trains and arms in Syria, the Salafist-jihadist fighters are the ones who dominate the battlefield and are thus the most capable of beating back their Islamic State rivals. There is also no guarantee that the pockets of nominally moderate rebels concentrated around Aleppo are going to apply their weaponry and training toward combatting the Islamic State primarily when their priority is to break out of stalemate on the battlefield and get closer to the goal of toppling the regime of Bashar al Assad.

This brings the U.S. strategy to the next big contradiction: How does it back the Syrian rebels enough to degrade the Islamic State but not so much that it risks proliferating power vacuums for radicals to fill and destroying a working relationship with Iran? The U.S. administration will predictably expend a great deal of energy justifying an expansion of airstrikes into Syria and refuting claims that it is aiding a dictator. The announcement to arm Syrian rebel factions is a piece of that effort. But a meaningful effort to arm and train Sunni rebels in Syria could well develop into an existential threat for the Iran-backed Syrian regime. This would of course not be welcomed by Iran, with which the United States is engaged in a critical negotiation designed to put their long-hostile relationship on a stable tracking.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

How much of the strategy is public relations versus reality will be seen in the coming days and weeks on the battlefield. The target set in Syria will offer a major clue as to whether quiet U.S.-Iranian coordination is proceeding via backchannels. If major energy infrastructure and surface-to-air missile sites are destroyed, thus seriously degrading both the Syrian regime's capabilities and economic assets of the Islamic State, the evident lack of an understanding between Damascus and Washington will be sure to have negative consequences for U.S. negotiations with Iran. On the other hand, if the United States focuses its targeting on Islamic State concentrations along the river valleys to cut the group's eastern supply lines while expanding the offensive in Iraq, the kabuki theater will continue.

Read more: Obama's Islamic State Strategy: Intel, Advisers and No Boots on the Ground | Stratfor
211  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science and Military Issues on: September 26, 2014, 12:39:37 PM
The War on Military Readiness
Having taken away the option of “boots on the ground” to eradicate the murderous cutthroats of the Islamic State -- yet placing 3,000 U.S. troops in harm's way to fight Ebola in Liberia -- Barack Obama reluctantly gave the go-ahead to a series of airstrikes and missile assaults on ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria, with "coalition" forces deploying aircraft, drones and dozens of Tomahawk missiles.

Despite the presence of coalition members Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, with Qatar “in a supporting role,” the vast majority of the armaments and strikes were provided and conducted by American forces. Moreover, the 47 Tomahawk missiles used in initial strikes comprised almost half the number Obama was planning on acquiring next year. In fact, he wants to eliminate that program by 2016. With our current stockpile of Tomahawks, we could maintain the current pace of strikes for only a matter of weeks, since Obama wasn't planning to replace them. The Pentagon estimates our efforts in Iraq and Syria will cost between $7 million and $10 million per day.

Beyond that, officials at the Pentagon concede that wiping out ISIL could take a while. Lt. Gen. Bill Mayville called recent airstrikes “only the beginning” and warned that, to be successful, the operation would have a timeline “in terms of years.” One airstrike may bump up those all-important approval numbers and help Democrat senators in the polls. Yet to actually do long-term damage would require more diligence than Obama has exhibited thus far in the Long War.

Indeed, "in terms of years" is a far cry from “shifting away from a perpetual war footing” as Obama proclaimed to the UN last year. Having killed Osama bin Laden and "decimated" al-Qaida, Obama foolishly figured he could simply remove American forces and cede our influence in that volatile region of the world.

Given that thought process, it's no surprise Obama's latest defense budget signals a further retreat from military readiness at less than $500 billion, with corresponding manpower limits reducing the size of our military. According to Wall Street Journal foreign-affairs columnist Bret Stephens, "By 2017, the U.S. military will be an increasingly hollow force, with the Army as small as it was in 1940, before conscription; a Navy the size it was in 1917, before our entry into World War I; an Air Force flying the oldest -- and smallest -- fleet of planes in its history; and a nuclear arsenal no larger than it was during the Truman administration." That's not the sort of military that would suggest we're ready for a prolonged fight against radical and resolute Islamist forces.

It's worth asking a few questions: If our various coalition members were truly willing to eradicate ISIL, why did they not come together to do the job themselves? Those five allies who helped with this mission, along with France, certainly signed on knowing it was America's fight, however reluctantly, to wipe out Islamist terror cells acting under the banner they call the Islamic State. So when -- or if -- we decide ground troops are necessary, will they lend a hand in that respect? Furthermore, can we really trust these Islamic allies? A favorite tactic of Islamist terrorists is the “blue-on-green” attack such as the one that killed Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene in Afghanistan recently. So who's to say ISIL operatives won't try to likewise infiltrate our allied forces?

We've spent years arguing that the Long War will indeed take years. If Obama finally comes to that realization as well, that's a good thing. But he's also making drastic cuts to our military while at the same time deploying our forces for such things as a humanitarian mission (read: campaign distraction) against an Ebola outbreak in Africa. It's high time Obama began taking the job of commander in chief seriously.
212  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: September 26, 2014, 12:37:17 PM

Another Surge of Illegals Coming Our Way?
Just a few days ago, the Obama administration assured us the flood of illegal minors across the southern border was largely over. There are plenty of reasons to doubt this claim. The Weekly Standard's Jeryl Bier reports, "The Rio Grande Valley sector of the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) is looking to buy 40,000 emergency Mylar blankets. The silvery, polyester blankets are often used in detention facilities where those caught illegally crossing the border into the United States are held. ... The USBP seems anxious to have the blankets on hand relatively quickly." And National Review's Ryan Lovelace adds another wrinkle: "After the number of families arriving and being apprehended at the southern border surged this year to levels never seen before, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are opening a fourth detention facility for illegal-immigrant families apprehended in the area, and its capacity will dwarf the three existing family detention centers." It seems the administration expects another surge in border crossers.

Pentagon Gives Illegal Immigrants Opportunity to Serve in Military
213  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Ben Franklin, 1722 (!) on: September 26, 2014, 12:34:57 PM
"Without freedom of thought there can be no such thing as wisdom; and no such thing as public liberty, without freedom of speech." --Benjamin Franklin, writing as Silence Dogood, No. 8, 1722
214  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dollar going up? on: September 26, 2014, 12:32:03 PM
215  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: September 26, 2014, 10:45:11 AM
A fine one Rachel.  Happy New Year!
216  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Voter Fraud indespensable to Obama strategy on: September 25, 2014, 03:36:12 PM
217  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Drums? on: September 25, 2014, 03:09:57 PM
For a clearer soundtrack of the fights, this Gathering we went without drums.


218  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / LA Traffic cameras gone Big Brother on: September 25, 2014, 02:53:37 PM
219  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / LA Traffic cameras gone Big Brother on: September 25, 2014, 02:52:35 PM
220  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: FBI says rise in mass shootings on: September 25, 2014, 02:49:50 PM
second post of day:

I notice the data starts in 2001.  I wonder what it was in prior decades?
221  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Feinstein lied, virtually no one died on: September 25, 2014, 02:47:56 PM 
222  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / C-17 AF flight commander talks about Benghazi on: September 24, 2014, 04:01:42 PM
223  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Did Stalin kill Patton? on: September 24, 2014, 03:52:28 PM
224  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jordan on: September 24, 2014, 03:15:04 PM
225  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mossad recruiting on: September 24, 2014, 02:50:28 PM
226  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Major renewal in nuclear arms on: September 24, 2014, 02:39:37 PM
227  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hillary's personal relationship with Saul Alinsky on: September 24, 2014, 02:31:11 PM
second post of day
228  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants & interesting thought pieces on: September 24, 2014, 01:49:57 PM
Islamic Jihad -- Target America
Should You Be Concerned?
By Mark Alexander • September 24, 2014
"The establishment of civil and religious liberty was the Motive which induced me to the Field." --George Washington (1783)

Despite assurances to the contrary from our nation's commander in chief, it turns out that global Jihad is thriving. And it constitutes a greater threat to our nation's security today than at any time in history.

Should you be concerned?

Of course, the answer is "yes," but with qualification.

The most imminent domestic threat to your life and property, statistically, emanates from the sociopathic drug/gang culture, which continues to metastasize on urban poverty plantations and is now spilling into suburban and rural communities. That threat has been cultivated for the last five decades by ruinous political and social policies that were, ostensibly, enacted to eradicate the poverty those policies institutionalized.

That notwithstanding, the elevated threat to your life from Islamic extremists should be a concern -- not because the probability of being an individual victim of an Islamist assault will soon be higher than the drug/gang culture threat, but because the probability of being among the cumulative victims of a catastrophic attack on our homeland -- be it conventional, nuclear or biological -- is escalating largely unabated.

The 9/11 attack on our country was perpetrated by 19 al-Qa'ida operatives. Its immediate effects -- the loss of lives and the longer-term economic impact -- were devastating. It would only take five to 10 al-Qa'ida operatives to create destruction on a 100-fold scale, with a little help from Iran or other terror-sponsoring states.

How real is that threat?

Islamic terrorist groups are surging worldwide, including Jabhat al-Nusra, Boko Haram, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Taliban, Jamaat-e-Islami, Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Khorasan Group and now, front and center, ISIL, a.k.a. the Islamic State -- all of which together constitute Jihadistan, that borderless nation of Islamic extremists aligned under the Qur'anic umbrella.

Currently there are many American Islamists actively fighting among the ranks of ISIL in the Middle East -- and they have significant networks of support in the United States. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper concludes that the direct links between ISIL and those domestic networks has created "the most diverse array of threats and challenges as I've seen in my 50-plus years in the [intelligence] business."

How did this surge get underway?

In 2012, amid the cascading failure of his domestic economic and social policies, Barack Obama centered his re-election campaign on his faux foreign policy successes, which were built upon the following two boasts: "Four years ago, I promised to end the war in Iraq. I did." And "al-Qa'ida is on the run."

The reality, however, is that Obama's "hope and change" retreat from Iraq left a vacuum for the resurgence of a far more dangerous incarnation of Muslim terrorism under the ISIL label, which has displaced al-Qa'ida as the dominant asymmetric Islamic terrorist threat to the West.

Clearly, it is Obama's foreign policy malfeasance that poses the greatest threat to U.S. national and homeland security.

So, is the Islamic State actually, well, Islamic?

Not according to Obama. While he subscribes to the hate-driven rhetoric of Afro-centric theology, six formative years of his early life were spent attending Islamic schools in Indonesia.

In his address to the nation last week, he claimed, "Let’s make two things clear: ISIL is not Islamic. ... And ISIL is certainly not a state.”

Reasonable people may disagree on whether the Islamic State now occupying much of Syria and Iraq is, at least by the Western definition, a state, but it certainly is a state in the Jihadistan context given the Islamic World of the Qur'an recognizes no political borders.

But for Obama to suggest "ISIL is not Islamic" is flatly absurd. Why else are American taxpayers providing Islamist prisoners at Gitmo copies of the Qur'an and payer rugs?
It is equally asinine, of course, for Secretary of State John Kerry to perpetuate the lie that "Islam is the Religion of Peace™" by claiming, "We must continue to repudiate the gross distortion of Islam that ISIL is spreading."

Their errant assertions prompted this rebuke from Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani: "[Obama and Kerry] turned into Islamic jurists, muftis, sheikhs and preachers, standing up for Islam and the Muslims, so it appears that they no longer have confidence in the ability or sincerity of their sorcerers..."

So, is Islamic Jihad really "Islamic"?

There are many excellent resources for understanding Islamic extremism and the rise of Islamic terrorism. But allow me to offer a brief overview of Islam and the schism that gave rise to global Islamic Jihad.

In 570 AD, Abū al-Qāsim Muhammad was born in Mecca (in modern-day Saudi Arabia). In the year 610, Muhammad went into the hills and claims to have received instruction from an angel to spend the next 22 years as the exclusive transcriber of Allah's message, the Qur'an, which means "recitation." Its 114 Surahs, or chapters, outline the religious, military, civil, social, commercial and legal systems of Islam. Most Muslims believe that Islam originated with the prophet Adam, and that Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus were Islamic prophets.

After Muhammad's death in 632, Islam split into two factions, Sunni and Shi’ite -- a split originating from a dispute about whether the religion should be led by strict adherence to the Qur'an, or led by Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammad. The Sunnis (from "Ahl al-Sunna," meaning ”people of the tradition”) bonded through Muslim orthodoxy. The Shias (from “Shiat Ali,” meaning ”party of Ali”) were a political alliance formed around Muhammad's descendant.

Despite the split, Islam thrived, and by the 17th century, a vast Muslim empire was controlled by a powerful military and was the cultural cradle of mathematics, architecture, art, law and science. But the rise of Western military power would divide and conquer the Muslim empire by the end of the 18th century, followed by European occupations of much of that former empire over the next century.

By the end of World War I, Islam's Ottoman Empire was lost. Many Muslims adapted to Western culture, while some held to old Islamic traditions. But the re-constitution of the State of Israel in 1948 seeded a resurgence of Islamic fervor, a fervor that would unleash itself 30 years later under the watch of Jimmy Carter's administration.
In 1979, the powerful and strategic state of Iran fell to the Islamic Revolution, and Shia cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to power. Student revolutionaries seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage, and that act galvanized both Shia and Sunni Islamist activists throughout the Middle East.

Today, Shia Muslims represent majorities only in Iran, Iraq and Bahrain.

But Islamic Jihad, including al-Qa'ida and subsequent terrorist groups, is rooted in Sunni orthodoxy. Sunnis represent about 85% of Muslims worldwide, including countries in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

So again, is Islamic Jihad "Islamic"? Indeed, it is.

The Suras of the Qur'an and the Hadith (Muhammad's teachings) require jihad, or "holy war," against all "the enemies of God." For the record, orthodox Sunnis understand that these "infidels" include all Muslim or non-Muslim people who refute any teachings of Muhammad -- which is why ISIL Sunnis are slaughtering Iraqi Shias.

Rebutting Obama's assertion that Islamic Jihad is disconnected from Islam, Hoover Institution Fellow Dennis Prager writes: "Killing 'unbelievers' has been part of -- of course not all of -- Islam since its inception. Within 10 years of Muhammad’s death Muslims had conquered and violently converted whole peoples from Iran to Egypt and from Yemen to Syria. Muslims have offered conquered people death or conversion since that time. ... More than 600 years after Muhammad, Ibn Khaldun, the greatest Muslim writer who ever lived, explained why Islam is the superior religion in the most highly regarded Muslim work ever written, 'Muqaddimah,' or 'Introduction to History': 'In the Muslim community, the holy war is religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.'"

Thus, if you're among those who resist or refute Muhammad's teachings, you're a de facto enemy of Islam.

According to Muhammad in the Qur'anic verses, Allah commands, "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them."

Do you refute any teachings of Muhammad?

Based on the Sunni Islamist history of violence, it is clear that Islam is not "the Religion of Peace," though there are obviously many Muslims worldwide and in the U.S. who do not subscribe to Islamist Jihad theology. But the number of Sunni Muslims who do support that totalitarian theology is staggering.

According to the Pew Research Center, there are 2.75 million Muslims in the U.S. today. Notably, about 90% of American Muslims are Sunni. The Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Nation of Islam have now established more than 2,200 mosques, some of which have become hotbeds of support for Sunni Islamist extremists. The ethnic group with the fastest growing conversion rate to Islam is Latino -- 12 million of whom are now in the U.S. illegally, and who continue to pour across our southern border.

Do any of those grim statistics concern you?

At the conclusion of the American Revolutionary War, George Washington wrote that our nation has its roots in "the establishment of civil and religious liberty."
Islam, on the other hand, is founded on the abolition of civil and religious liberty -- which is to say it is diametrically opposed to the notion that Liberty is "endowed by our Creator."

Pro Deo et Constitutione -- Libertas aut Mors
Semper Fortis Vigilate Paratus et Fidelis
229  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: PR-24 or Tonfa compared to Kali stick on: September 24, 2014, 01:12:40 PM
The tonfa has a great jab to the belly, but overall when I teach LEO my recommendation is baton/ASP.
230  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Soccer too? on: September 24, 2014, 01:11:32 PM
Not much data here, but in the interest of openness I paste this here:
231  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Anti-semitism in Europe and America on: September 24, 2014, 01:08:41 PM
In Europe


Meanwhile, here in America:

Click here to watch: UCLA Using Gov’t Funds to Fuel Anti-Semitism

A consortium of American Jewish and civil rights groups are concerned that federal funds are underwriting “one-sided, antisemitic programming that masquerades as scholarship,” at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), according to statements released Wednesday. In a just-released three-year study (2010-2013) covering “Antisemitic Activity and Anti-Israel Bias At the Center for Near East Studies (CNES)” at UCLA, AMCHA Initiative researchers said they have found “CNES events disproportionately focused on Israel and the Israeli-Arab conflict, with 93% of events on Israel being anti-Israel, and 75% displaying antisemitic discourse.” AMCHA investigates, documents and fights antisemitism at universities and other institutions of higher education in the US. CNES, according to AMCHA, is a major federally-designated National Resource Center, and as such, gets most of its funding funding from the Department of Education under Title VI of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The group said the school received $1,383,680 during the period being investigated. The groups issued a joint statement calling on the U.S. Congress to deny funds to Middle East Studies programs accused of having anti-American and anti-Israel bias, as well as to enact reforms on the funding process. Congress is currently reconsidering the reauthorization of the HEA, which provides federal funds to 129 international studies and foreign language programs. According to the 10 organizations that signed the statement- Accuracy in Academia, AMCHA Initiative, American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Endowment for Middle East Truth, The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Middle East Forum, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Simon Wiesenthal Center, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, Zionist Organization of America – the programs “have devolved into hotbeds of anti-American and anti-Israel activity, disseminating falsehoods both in universities and to K-12 teachers and to the general public.”

Watch Here

The organizations call on lawmakers to implement two accountability measures, including requiring Title VI recipients to establish grievance procedures and for the department of education to launch a complaint-resolution process. “Title VI of the Higher Education Act directs federal dollars to support the intellectually corrupt field of Middle East studies, among the most politicized academic disciplines, filled with professors hostile to America, Israel, and the West. American taxpayers should not fund programs that aim to weaken resolve and thwart policy,” said Middle East Forum President Daniel Pipes. “CNES is promoting a one-sided, anti-Israel and antisemitic bias to impressionable students. This completely distorts UCLA’s scholarly and educational mission and is a violation of the Higher Education Act,” according to Leila Beckwith, AMCHA co-founder and a UCLA emeritus professor. In May, UCLA leaders and the University of California (UC) statewide system issued dual statements condemning a pledge organized by several anti-Israel student groups, including Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, that had called on UCLA student council candidates to promise not to visit Israel on trips sponsored by Jewish organizations.
232  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama's plan to change America via Immigration on: September 24, 2014, 10:24:04 AM
233  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / 9/21/2014 Dog Brothers Open Gathering of the Pack Photos on: September 24, 2014, 10:20:40 AM

234  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dick Morris opens website dedicated to tracking Hillary on: September 24, 2014, 10:03:35 AM
Some over the top content, but some real goodies too.  This could turn into a really good resource:
235  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Man bites dog: POTB prints unsettled science article on: September 23, 2014, 08:27:09 PM 

100 years of west coast warming nature caused!
236  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Defense against EMP? on: September 23, 2014, 07:56:32 PM
237  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Defense against EMP? on: September 23, 2014, 07:55:30 PM
238  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Some Fatwas against FGM on: September 23, 2014, 12:16:44 PM
239  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Enemy's propaganda on: September 23, 2014, 12:10:16 PM
240  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Three entries on: September 23, 2014, 11:18:25 AM
Catching up!

"[W]e still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised, to furnish new pretenses for revenues and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey and permits none to escape without tribute." --Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, 1791

"With those who wish to think amiss of me, I have learned to be perfectly indifferent; but where I know a mind to be ingenuous, and to need only truth to set it to rights, I cannot be passive." --Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Abigail Adams, 1804

"How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the preparations and establishments of every hostile nation?" --James Madison (1788)
241  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Worst case scenario for Ebola 1.4 million? on: September 23, 2014, 09:52:35 AM
C.D.C.’s Worst-Case Ebola Scenario: 1.4 Million Cases in 4 Months

Yet another set of ominous projections about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa was released Tuesday, in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that gave worst- and best-case estimates for Liberia and Sierra Leone based on computer modeling.

In the worst-case scenario, Liberia and Sierra Leone could have 21,000 cases of Ebola by Sept. 30 and 1.4 million cases by Jan. 20 if the disease keeps following its current trajectory, without effective methods to contain it. These figures take into account the fact that many cases go undetected, and estimate that there are actually 2.5 times as many as reported.

The report does not include figures for Guinea because case counts there have gone up and down in ways that cannot be reliably modeled.

In the best-case model — which assumes that the dead are buried safely and that 70 percent of patients are treated in settings that reduce the risk of transmission — the epidemic in both countries would be “almost ended” by Jan. 20, the report said. It showed the proportion of patients now in such settings as about 18 percent in Liberia and 40 percent in Sierra Leone.


242  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Native Americans and tribal living around the world on: September 22, 2014, 06:24:34 PM
243  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Unlicensed Ginseng? on: September 22, 2014, 09:27:52 AM
Not quite sure where to put this
244  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Pictures on: September 22, 2014, 09:13:02 AM
245  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Koorasan on: September 22, 2014, 12:24:38 AM

WASHINGTON — As the United States begins what could be a lengthy military campaign against the Islamic State, intelligence and law enforcement officials said another Syrian group, led by a shadowy figure who was once among Osama bin Laden’s inner circle, posed a more direct threat to America and Europe.

American officials said that the group called Khorasan had emerged in the past year as the cell in Syria that may be the most intent on hitting the United States or its installations overseas with a terror attack. The officials said that the group is led by Muhsin al-Fadhli, a senior Qaeda operative who, according to the State Department, was so close to Bin Laden that he was among a small group of people who knew about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks before they were launched.

There is almost no public information about the Khorasan group, which was described by several intelligence, law enforcement and military officials as being made up of Qaeda operatives from across the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa. Members of the cell are said to be particularly interested in devising terror plots using concealed explosives. It is unclear who, besides Mr. Fadhli, is part of the Khorasan group.

The director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., said on Thursday that “in terms of threat to the homeland, Khorasan may pose as much of a danger as the Islamic State.”

Some American officials and national security experts said the intense focus on the Islamic State had distorted the picture of the terrorism threat that has emerged from the chaos of Syria’s civil war, and that the more immediate threats still come from traditional terror groups like Khorasan and the Nusra Front, which is Al Qaeda’s designated affiliate in Syria.

Mr. Fadhli, 33, has been tracked by American intelligence agencies for at least a decade. According to the State Department, before Mr. Fadhli arrived in Syria, he had been living in Iran as part of a small group of Qaeda operatives who had fled to the country from Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks. Iran’s government said the group was living under house arrest, but the exact circumstances of the Qaeda operatives were disputed for years, and many members of the group ultimately left Iran for Pakistan, Syria and other countries.

In 2012, the State Department identified Mr. Fadhli as Al Qaeda’s leader in Iran, directing “the movement of funds and operatives” through the country. A $7 million reward was offered for information leading to his capture. The same State Department release said he was working with wealthy “jihadist donors” in Kuwait, his native country, to raise money for Qaeda-allied rebels in Syria.

In a speech in Brussels in 2005, President George W. Bush referred to Mr. Fadhli as he thanked European countries for their counterterrorism assistance, noting that Mr. Fadhli had assisted terrorists who bombed a French oil tanker in 2002 off the coast of Yemen. That attack killed one and spilled 50,000 barrels of oil that stretched across 45 miles of coastline.

The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, is viewed as more focused on consolidating territory it has amassed in Syria and Iraq than on attacking the West. Some even caution that military strikes against the Islamic State could antagonize that group into planning attacks on Western targets, and even benefit other militant organizations if more moderate factions of the rebellion are not ready to take power on the ground.

The Islamic State’s recent statements, including a video using a British captive as a spokesman, have sought to deter American action against the group and threatened attacks only as revenge for American strikes.

At the same time, the rise of the Islamic State has blunted the momentum of its rival groups in Syria, including the Nusra Front, once considered to be among the most capable in the array of Syrian rebel groups. The Islamic State’s expansion across northern Iraq and in oil-rich regions of eastern Syria has sapped some of the Nusra Front’s resources and siphoned some of its fighters — who are drawn by the Islamic State’s battlefield successes and declaration of a caliphate, the longtime dream of many jihadists.

It is difficult to assess the seriousness and scope of any terror plots that Khorasan, the Nusra Front or other groups in Syria might be planning. In several instances in the past year, Nusra and the Islamic State have used Americans who have joined their ranks to carry out attacks inside Syria — including at least one suicide bombing — rather than returning them to the United States to strike there.

Beyond the militant groups fighting for control of territory, Syria has become a magnet for Islamic extremists from other nations who have used parts of the country as a sanctuary to plot attacks.

“What you have is a growing body of extremists from around the world who are coming in and taking advantage of the ungoverned areas and creating informal ad hoc groups that are not directly aligned with ISIS or Nusra,” a former senior law enforcement official said.

Spokesmen for the C.I.A. and the White House declined to comment for this article.
Continue reading the main story
Graphic: How ISIS Works

The grinding war in Syria, well into its fourth year, has led to a constant shifting of alliances among the hard-line rebel groups.

Ayman al-Zawahri, the head of Al Qaeda, anointed the Nusra Front as its official branch in Syria and cut ties with the Islamic State early this year after it refused to follow his orders to fight only in Iraq. Officials said that Khorasan was an offshoot of the Nusra Front. According to a new report by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a nonprofit research and analysis organization, the rifts among these various groups “threaten to create a conflict throughout the jihadist movement that is no longer confined to Syria and Iraq.”

While Nusra has been weakened, it remains one of the few rebel organizations that has active branches throughout Syria. Analysts view the organization as well placed to benefit from American strikes that might weaken the Islamic State.

Jennifer Cafarella, a Syria analyst with the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, said that American strikes could benefit the Nusra Front if the United States did not ensure that there was another force ready to take power on the ground.

“There is definitely a threat that, if not conducted as a component of a properly tailored strategy within Syria, the American strikes would allow the Nusra Front to fill a vacuum in eastern Syria,” she said.

She noted that the Nusra Front had been the primary force in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour before it was pushed out by the Islamic State earlier this year, and that the group had maintained better relationships with the local tribes than ISIS had. This could make it easier for the group to return if ISIS is chased out by American airstrikes.

While the Nusra Front does not openly call for attacks on the West, it remains loyal to Mr. Zawahri, whose clout among jihadists has waned with the rise of the Islamic State.

A great deal remains uncertain about the Nusra Front’s ultimate aims inside Syria. Hamza al-Shimali, the head of the American-backed rebel group the Hazm Movement, said that he and his allies did not trust the Nusra Front. He said he feared that one day he would have to fight the Nusra Front in addition to the Syrian government and the Islamic State.

American intelligence officials estimate that since the Syrian conflict began, about 15,000 foreigners, including more than 100 Americans and 2,000 Europeans, have traveled to the country to fight alongside rebel groups. Syria’s porous borders make it relatively easy to get in and out of the country, raising concerns among Western officials that without markings on their passports they could slip back undetected into Europe or the United States.
246  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Drive-by surprise medical bills on: September 21, 2014, 11:24:21 PM
 shocked shocked shocked 
247  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dem's block Cruz's bill to strip citizenship on: September 21, 2014, 10:10:51 AM
248  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The enemy makes our case for us on: September 20, 2014, 06:52:24 PM 
249  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sobibor gas chambers unearthed on: September 20, 2014, 06:41:51 PM

Click here to watch: 71 years later, Sobibor gas chambers unearthed

The gas chambers at the Sobibor death camp, where some 250,000 Jews perished between April 1942 and October 1943, have been uncovered in an archaeological dig, bringing to a close an eight-year search, Yad Vashem announced on Wednesday. “Finally, we have reached our goal – the discovery of the gas chambers. We were amazed at the size of the building and the well-preserved condition of the chamber walls,” Israeli archaeologist Yoram Haimi, whose two uncles were killed in the camp, was quoted as saying in a press release. In addition to the thousands of personal effects belonging to the Jewish inmates that have been unearthed in past years, last week the archaeological team found a water well used by the Jewish prisoners, which the Nazis filled with waste while dismantling the camp. A wedding band bearing the Hebrew inscription “Behold, you are consecrated unto me” was also recently located near the gas chambers in what Haimi described as the “most poignant moment.” The find buttresses the accounts of the survivors of the extermination camp, and constitutes “a very important finding in Holocaust research,” said Yad Vashem scholar Dr. David Silberklang. “It is important to understand that there were no survivors from among the Jews who worked in the area of the gas chambers. Therefore, these findings are all that is left of those murdered there, and they open a window onto the day-to-day suffering of these people,” he said. “We will now be able to know more precisely what the process of murder was in the camp, and what the Jews went through until they were murdered. Additionally, finding the gas chambers and their capacity will enable us to estimate more precisely the number of people murdered in Sobibór.”

Watch Here

The discovery follows nearly eight years of excavations at the site — conducted by Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research, the German-Polish Foundation and the Majdanek State Museum — during which various personal items belonging to its victims such as jewelry, medicine, and food utensils were retrieved. Haimi has worked on the excavation since 2007, along with a Polish archaeologist Wojciech Mazure. In 2013 Dr. Ivar Schute, a Dutch archaeologist, joined the team. In 2012, Haimi discovered the areas where poles were planted in the soil, which mapped out the Himmelfahrsstrasse, or the “Road to Heaven, where the Jews were marched naked to the gas chambers,” according to the Associated Press. That find ultimately led him to the location of the gas chambers. The excavations were complicated by the extensive Nazi efforts to destroy all evidence of the Sobibor death camp. In October 1943, following an uprising of the camp’s 600 remaining inmates, of whom approximately half successfully escaped, the Nazis leveled the camp. They later planted crops over the site to hide the evidence. Thousands of Jews from Lublin, German-occupied Soviet territory, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Bohemia and Moravia, the Netherlands, and France were deported to Sobibor during the year-and-a-half that it was operational, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Like Belzec and Treblinka, which were established at around the same time, Sobibor was designed as a death camp, and Jews were gassed almost immediately upon their arrival.

Source: Times of Israel

250  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Threat of cartel violence nixes US border protest? on: September 20, 2014, 03:26:41 PM

Not impossible that this group is fibbing to cover what would have been a poor turnout.
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